Sophia Ritchie ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Since it’s sudden rise to popularity in the recent decade, Young Adult novels are widely accepted to be inferior to those meant for grown adults. Issue has been taken with nearly every facet of the YA genre. The subject matter, frequently involving teenaged romance or genre-specific fiction (like fantasy or sci-fi), is considered juvenile by some. The maturity level of the prose itself is frequently questioned. The popularity of the genre leads some to believe that publication is easier and therefore lower quality. Some people just really hate being reminded of puberty, and no amount of sexy vampires is going to make them hate YA any less.
The catch? All of these can apply to “adult” fiction as well. So here are four reasons why the YA genre is frequently just as satisfying as mature fiction (and a sometimes a lot more fun.)
1. Genre Fiction is not a reason to discriminate.
Genre fiction is growing increasingly popular amongst mature audiences. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin has lead to the critically acclaimed Game of Thrones TV series. Have you ever caught yourself drooling over Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons? You might want to reconsider your views on “paranormal teen romance,” because news flash: that crush you have on a white-haired dragon princess definitely falls under that category. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Genre fiction is not the enemy, and some of the most celebrated novels of all time have taken place in spectacular and ridiculous universes. Because YA is so widely accepted as throwaway fiction, authors have significantly more freedom to play with genre and create universes. As a result, some of the most brilliant world-building of recent years has come from books aimed at teenagers. Fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, paranormal, horror, adventure fiction: all of these have homes in the YA genre, and the more they grow to popularity, the more love the YA genre will have in coming years.
2. Most YA novels are written at a literary level similar to adult novels.
Sure, there are some YA novels that are horrifying to read. Twilight, a classic example of popularity over prose, is something a well-read second grader could get through. Some adults would probably pull their hair out if they were forced to read something with limited vocabulary and the single-minded focus of a typically teenaged love story.
Then again, most teenagers nowadays would be pulling their hair out, too.
The idea that YA is somehow dumbed down for younger audiences is no longer an accurate thought. Some fiction is simpler than others, and that’s just the way it goes. But the modern YA novel is frequently written at a literary level that anyone, including those with refined tastes, can enjoy. Some are written stylistically, in poetic form, some include high vocabulary choices, some are completely experimental and Kafka-esque: just like adult novels, there’s a range of quality. Just because they’re aimed at a younger audience doesn’t mean it’s immature.
3. YA Novels Frequently Deal with Harsh Situations
Just like in point 2, there seems to be a misconception that all YA fiction deals with are trivial, teenaged matters. While these novels can be just as enjoyable as a serious novel, a good deal of YA includes the harsher aspects of life and history. Fantasy novels like The Hunger Games introduce children to dystopian societies, poverty, death, PTSD, and the violence of war. Historical novels like The Book Thief address the Holocaust, discrimination, more death, more violence of war, sadness. And Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, a fiction novel, deals with rape, loneliness, the struggles of being accepted. All of these are handled beautifully and delicately, but depict the true horror of “adult” struggles to teenagers who might not know about them prior to reading. Not only does this introduce difficult ideas to young people in a safe learning environment, it can prompt thought about typically taboo subjects amongst people who might not even have an opportunity to speak of them normally. These mature situations do not lose their effect just because the literature is aimed at younger people, or told through the perspective of teenagers.
4. A teenaged perspective often leads to valuable and stunning prose.
Being a young adult is hard. Puberty is hard. First love, maturity, seeing a harsher world for the first time, understanding humans a little better: that is hard. There’s a reason some of the most heart wrenching literature of all time is written through the teenaged perspective. That time in a person’s maturity is critical to their formation as adults, and leads to some valuable prose that can’t be created at any other time. The things one feels as a teenager are usually written off as a phase, but that is often what makes them so beautiful: you will never feel like this again. Being middle-aged, elderly, those are times in one’s life that give birth to entirely new feelings and thoughts, too. So why not treasure one of the first times in a person’s life they’re discovering the world?